While “strongly supporting” enactment of a National Defense Authorization Act, the Biden Administration took exception to several aspects including funding platforms that cannot be properly modernized, wanting to merge Trump’s Space Force into the Air National Guard instead of an expensive stand-alone, and wanting funding to close Guantanamo. It also addresses Afghanistan and Israel, among others, and is generally a statement of Biden’s defense policy.
“The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the Nation. At the same time, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to provide appropriate resources for non-security investments and security investments outside the Department of Defense (DOD).”
Senator Bernie Sanders said he would vote against the $778 billion reauthorization bill as hypocrisy, when too many in Congress say the nation can’t afford universal health care and pre-K, while allocating $37 billion more than Trump’s last budget, even though the war in Afghanistan is over (where is the “peace dividend”?)
“This is a bill that has us spending more money on the military than the next 12 nations combined and more money in real inflation-adjusted dollars than we did during the height of the Cold War or during the wars in Vietnam and Korea,” Sanders declared.
“This is a bill giving an obscene amount of money to an agency – the Department of Defense – with hundreds of billions of dollars of cost overruns and which remains the only federal agency that hasn’t been able to pass an independent audit in decades.
“On top of that, it is likely that Senate leadership will attach a so-called ‘competitiveness bill’ that includes $52 billion in corporate welfare, no strings attached money for a handful of extremely profitable microchip companies” for a combined $1 trillion bill, Sanders stated.
Biden would more or less agree on much of Sanders’ issues:
Here is the Statement of Administration Policy – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY S. 2792 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (Sen. Reed, D-RI, and Sen. Inhofe, R-OK)
The Administration strongly supports enactment of a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for a 61st consecutive year and is grateful for the strong, bipartisan work this year by the Senate Armed Services Committee on behalf of America’s national defense.
The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress to set an appropriate and responsible level of defense spending to support the security of the Nation. At the same time, the Administration looks forward to working with Congress to provide appropriate resources for non-security investments and security investments outside the Department of Defense (DOD). A strong economy is critical to ensuring that our Nation is positioned for strategic competition, and investments in diplomacy, development, and economic statecraft enhance the effectiveness of national defense spending and promote national security.
The Administration opposes the direction to add funding for platforms and systems that cannot be affordably modernized given the need to eliminate wasteful spending and prioritize survivable, and resilient forces that credibly deter advanced threats. Our national security interests require forces that can fight across the spectrum of conflict.
The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address its concerns, a number of which are outlined below. The Administration also looks forward to reviewing the classified annex to the committee report and working with Congress to address any concerns about classified programs.
Optimizing Program Investments and Modernization. The Administration strongly opposes restoration of funding to systems that limit DOD’s ability to divest or retire lower priority platforms not relevant to tomorrow’s battlefield. The President’s Budget divests or retires vulnerable and costly platforms that no longer meet mission or security needs, and reinvests those savings in transformational, innovative assets that match the dynamic threat landscape and advance the capabilities of the force of the future. The Administration strongly opposes language that would limit decommissioning or inactivation of battle force ships before the end of their expected service life (section 135) and retiring A-10 aircraft (section 143). The Administration also strongly opposes language that would establish minimum inventory requirements of systems such as tactical airlift and fighter aircraft (sections 141 and 142) and would authorize unrequested funding for Expeditionary Fast Transport ships. Such provisions would limit the Department’s flexibility to prioritize resource investment, delay modernization of capabilities, and impede implementation of the emergent National Defense Strategy.
Afghanistan Security Forces Fund. Section 1213 provides authorities no longer needed following the collapse of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). Therefore, the Administration strongly urges the Senate to adopt the language in the House bill to enable the responsible termination of the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) by authorizing the use of ASFF for costs associated with the termination of support to the ANDSF. The termination will involve, at a minimum, closing out several hundred contracts and, in many cases, negotiating financial settlements with the contractors, developing a full accounting for all ASFF-funded equipment and supplies that are outside Afghanistan, and assessing amounts and the use of appropriations for potential contract settlement costs and the cost of transporting and storing ASFF-funded materiel for purposes of treating it as DOD stocks. More analysis is necessary to develop prudent estimates of these costs and of timelines for completing these actions.
Recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military (IRC). The Administration commends the determined and bipartisan effort reflected by the bill to advance the shared goal of Congress and the Administration to make real and sustainable progress on the prevention of and response to sexual assault and other related crimes, and improve support for survivors.
The Administration supports effective implementation of the IRC’s recommendations focused on accountability, improving prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support and has developed and instituted a phased implementation plan to build the foundation and infrastructure necessary to do so sustainably. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to clarify Sec. 530B, to allow for alignment with the Department of Defense’s ongoing implementation strategy. Additionally, some of the IRC’s recommendations – such as 4.2 b, which relates to services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs – are beyond the authority of the Secretary of Defense to implement unilaterally.
The Administration is committed to executing military justice reform, and welcomes efforts by Congress to enact legislation that supports core aspects of the IRC’s recommendations for accountability, namely: that the decision to prosecute special victim crimes (including, but not limited to: sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic violence) be made by Special Victim Prosecutors (SVPs) within a fully professionalized judge advocate organization; that SVPs have the requisite litigation experience and specialized training to be able to work with victims of these complex, interpersonal crimes; and that each Military Department establish an Office of the Special Victim Prosecutor (OSVP) that can operate with independence from the command reporting structure and under the direction of the Secretary of the Military Department, without intervening authority. The Administration believes that each Secretary of a Military Department should have discretion to determine the director of the OSVP, who may be a Senior Executive Service civilian, best suited to carry out the mission of the Office as determined by that Secretary.
To ensure effective reform, the Administration recommends the date prescribed by section 552, so that adequate time is provided to issue necessary implementing regulations, identify and hire appropriately qualified personnel, train both new and existing personnel, and then place them in newly created positions.
Additionally, effective reform will require an increase in the resources committed to the system. Accordingly, the Administration objects to section 564, which would require implementation of the military justice reforms using otherwise-authorized personnel and resources. The Administration will work with Congress to determine the appropriate resource level needed to ensure effective implementation of the revised military justice system.
In addition to these recommendations from the IRC, the Administration urges Congress to enable military protective orders (MPOs) to be given full faith and credit, and enact legislation that would provide DOD and the Services sufficient time to assess and implement this change.
Limitation on Modifications to Sexual Assault Reporting Procedures. The Administration strongly objects to section 566, which would prohibit the Secretary of Defense from amending section 4 of enclosure 4 of DOD Instruction 6495.02, relating to Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures, “or otherwise prescribe any regulations or guidance relating to the treatment and handling of unrestricted and restricted reports of sexual assault, until 30 days after notifying the congressional defense committees of the proposed amendment or modification.” This provision could delay potential needed updates to DOD’s sexual assault regulations. The administration is committed to working with Congress in a transparent way on these important matters, but must maintain flexibility to amend internal policies when needed.
Air and Space National Guard. The Administration does not oppose section 902, which would rename the Air National Guard as the Air and Space National Guard. This provision would avoid the significant administrative expenses associated with establishing a stand-alone Space National Guard, so DOD can prioritize the development of new space capabilities. The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress on alternative Space Force concepts that are efficient, effective, and appropriate for space missions.
DOD Contractor Professional Training Material Disclosure Requirements. The Administration strongly opposes section 818, which would require all DOD contractors to post online or, if they lack an online presence, submit in paper to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment all diversity, equal opportunity, equity, inclusion, or tolerance training materials or internal policies related to these subjects. This provision would require the disclosure of intellectual property and proprietary information. Furthermore, the provision would be a barrier to entry, especially for small businesses or companies contracting with the Department for the first time. This provision, therefore, would limit the number of entities willing or able to do business with the Department at a time when access to talent, technology, and innovation is a critical determinant of the U.S.’s ability to compete.
Limitations on Use of Funds in the National Defense Sealift (NDS) Fund. The Administration strongly objects to the removal of funding for used sealift vessels. The Administration also urges support for the necessary relief to recapitalize the sealift fleet with used vessels by removing existing statutory limitations. The Administration strongly encourages Congress to remove the statutory cap on the number of used sealift vessels DOD can procure and to remove the statutory link between the use of NDS funding for the purchase of used vessels and the requirement to procure new construction vessels. This will allow the Administration to recapitalize the sealift fleet, with all used ship conversions taking place in U.S. shipyards, for a fraction of the cost of procuring new vessels.
Basic Needs Allowance for Low-Income Regular Members. The Administration supports a basic needs allowance. The Administration needs a more comprehensive data analysis to determine the inclusion or exclusion of basic allowance for housing when considering the calculation of a basic needs allowance. Using this analysis, the Administration would like to work with Congress to develop an appropriate calculation for targeting recipients of a basic needs allowance.
Prohibition on Missile Defense Agency Production of Satellites and Ground Systems Associated with Operation of Such Satellites. The Administration strongly objects to section 1510, which would prohibit the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) from authorizing or obligating funding for a program of record for the production of satellites, with an associated limitation of funds. Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS) On-Orbit Prototype Demonstration phase began in January 2021 with contracts awarded to two industry teams. This program supports unique missile defense requirements to provide fire-control quality tracking data on hypersonic and ballistic missile threats for engagement by missile defense weapons, and is a critical element of the Missile Defense System kill-chain. Enacting section 1510 would delay delivery of this capability to the warfighter. Also, consistent with congressional direction, the Secretary of Defense has certified the Director of MDA as the responsible agent for developing the HBTSS capability.
Modification of United States-Israel Operations-Technology Cooperation within the United States-Israel Defense Acquisition Advisory Group. While the Administration strongly supports strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, the Administration strongly opposes section 1271, which would make the United States-Israel Operations-Technology Working Group (OTWG) mandatory. DOD has developed draft Terms of Reference for such a group and is finalizing negotiations with Israel. However, enactment of section 1271 would eliminate the flexibility the Administration needs to ensure that the terms, membership, and focus of the OTWG are in the U.S. interest.
Enhancement of Recusal for Conflicts of Personal Interest Requirements for Department of Defense Officers and Employees. The Administration is committed to preventing conflicts of interest, but is concerned that section 1103 lacks any mechanism for the Secretary of Defense to grant a waiver or authorization to authorize participation when it is in the best interests of the Government. Section 1103 needs to be aligned with existing ethics rules because it introduces new terms, broader standards, and requires the Department to further screen all DOD personnel from participating in “covered matters” involving clients and competitors of an employee’s former employer for four years. Section 1103 would significantly extend the time and resources needed to make decisions and limit DOD’s ability to hire qualified personnel.
Missile Defense Radar in Hawaii. The Administration opposes added funding for the Homeland Defense Radar – Hawaii (HDR-H). The Department had planned to field HDR-H, the Pacific Radar, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), and the Long Range Discrimination Radar by the mid-2020s as a system of systems to improve homeland ballistic missile defense. The Pacific Radar has been delayed indefinitely due to stalled negotiations with the host nation, and the RKV program has been cancelled. Hawaii is currently defended against missile threats to the same extent as the rest of the United States, and DOD is currently investing in other capabilities, such as the Next Generation Interceptor, which will support the long-term defense of Hawaii.
Reprioritization of Military Construction Funding to Unrequested Projects. The Administration opposes section 4601, which would realign military construction funding authorization from priority projects to other projects not included in the President’s Budget. Contrary to the Administration’s fiscally responsible policy to fully fund projects, the bill proposes to fund 14 military construction projects incrementally, effectively creating an unfunded obligation of almost $1 billion to complete these projects.
Alignment of Close Combat Lethality Task Force. The Administration strongly opposes section 905, which would prevent implementation of the Secretary of Defense’s decision to realign the Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF) to the Secretary of the Army, effective October 1, 2021. Section 905 would prevent the alignment of the CCLTF with the organization best positioned to identify, test, develop, demonstrate, and integrate new close combat capabilities, capacity that is already built into the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. Importantly, the CCLTF will remain a joint organization, with a Tri-Service board governing the work of the CCLTF.
Prohibition on Support for Offensive Military Operations Against the Houthis in Yemen. The Administration opposes section 1272 because it is unnecessary; the Administration already has ceased support for Saudi-led coalition offensive operations in Yemen. In addition, because DOD does not have the lead for humanitarian aid delivery, the Secretary of Defense is not the appropriate official to provide the requested report.
Prohibition on Reduction of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles of the United States. The Administration objects to section 1543, which would restrict the President and the Department of Defense from reducing the number of deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles below 400. The Administration objects to this restriction while the force structure is under review as part of the ongoing Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). This language would constrain the President’s ability to propose the nuclear force he determines is necessary.
Significant New Foreign Policy Provisions. The Administration is concerned that the bill includes certain sections—specifically 1011, 1201, 1205, 1207, 1208, 1209, 1211, 1242, and 1275—that would require DOD engagement in, analysis of, or reporting on significant foreign policy issues without including sufficient means for the Secretary of State to provide input and ensure that foreign assistance is carried out in a manner consistent with foreign policy priorities.
Coordination Between United States Cyber Command and Private Sector. The Administration opposes section 1604, as this provision’s relationship to section 1642(b) of the FY 2019 NDAA is unclear. The Secretary of Defense’s authority to “make arrangements with private sector entities, on a voluntary basis” under section 1642(b) is scoped to the four top nation-state threats. In contrast, section 1604 is not similarly scoped, is not tied to existing authorities, is arguably duplicative, lacks appropriate coordination with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, and may prohibit internal U.S Government information sharing.
Pilot Program on Public-Private Partnerships with Internet Ecosystem Companies to Detect and Disrupt Adversary Cyber Operations. The Administration opposes section 1605, which would require the Secretary of Defense to initiate a pilot program to use public-private partnerships to facilitate detection and disruption of malicious cyber activity on private sector infrastructure. Many of the authorized activities would be achieved more effectively through existing federal activities, such as the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative and several Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement programs. Establishing a separate pilot program led by DOD would further complicate federal efforts to collaborate with the private sector, including “internet ecosystem companies,” in a unified, coordinated manner.
Safe Drinking Water Act Amendment on Cybersecurity. The Administration urges support for the requested amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act to enhance cybersecurity and resilience requirements for drinking water systems. Recent incidents show that cyber-attacks and malicious cyber activity against drinking water systems can disrupt and endanger our critical water infrastructure’s ability to provide safe and reliable drinking water, and put the health and lives of our citizens at risk.
Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The Administration strongly objects to sections 1031, 1032, and 1033, which would extend the prohibitions on the use of funds to: transfer Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility (GTMO) detainees to the United States (1031); construct or modify facilities in the United States to house transferred GTMO detainees (1032); and transfer GTMO detainees to certain countries (1033). These provisions would interfere with the President’s ability to determine the appropriate disposition of GTMO detainees and to make important foreign policy and national security determinations regarding whether and under what circumstances to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries.
Constitutional Concerns. Certain provisions of the bill, such as section 1232, raise constitutional concerns. The Administration looks forward to working with Congress to address this and other constitutional concerns.
On Veterans Day 2021, the Biden Administration announced new actions to address health effects of military exposures on veterans. The White House provided a fact sheet outliningnew initiatives to address health impacts of military service:
Exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards poses a major health concern for veterans of all generations. There are also gaps and delays in the scientific evidence demonstrating conclusive links between known exposures and health impacts, leaving many veterans without access to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and high-quality treatment to address significant health conditions. For example, it took decades to provide access to compensatory benefits and health care to many Vietnam era veterans for conditions presumed to be related to Agent Orange exposure. For the newest generation of veterans, concerns about burn pits and other exposures continue to mount. While the federal government has taken some steps to address these issues, including implementing registries to track veterans exposed to potentially hazardous substances, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to doing more to enable timely access to services and benefits for those potentially exposed to hazardous materials.
As we mark Veterans Day and honor those who have worn the uniform of the United States, the Administration is moving forward to support our service members and veterans who may have encountered environmental hazards by:
Developing and testing a model for establishing service connection. It can be difficult for veterans to prove connection for disabilities resulting from environmental hazards. To mitigate this difficulty, VA may create presumptions of exposure in order to establish service connection for various chronic conditions when the evidence of an environmental exposure and the associated health risks are strong in the aggregate but hard to prove on an individual basis. In order to deliver benefits more quickly to veterans who developed disabilities due to exposure to environmental hazards and to lower the evidentiary burden on such veterans, VA developed a new model to accelerate the decision-making process to consider adding new presumptive conditions. This new model takes into consideration not only consensus reports from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, but also includes analyses of data from other sources as well, including data from the Veterans Benefits Administration and the Veterans Health Administration. The new model relies upon a multi-faceted scale to evaluate the strength of scientific and other evidence and allow VA to make faster policy decisions on key exposures. VA successfully applied this model to examine the association between exposures to particulate matter and three respiratory conditions, as announced last May.
Adding new presumptive conditions. In August, VA began processing disability claims for asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis based on presumed exposure to particulate matter. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other areas and who developed these conditions within 10 years of military service are now eligible to apply for disability benefits and access to VA health care. This rulemaking was based upon application of the new presumptive model and involved careful review of a study conducted by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, as well as other evidence assessed by VA subject matter experts.
Applying new model to review evidence of service connection for rare respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis. VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea. The President has directed VA to complete the review of rare cancers and provide recommendations about new presumptions of service connection within 90 days. Based on the results of this review, the Administration will consider initiating additional rulemaking. Once the process is complete, the Administration will continue to test this model on additional health conditions and exposures to ensure more timely review and consideration of potential service connection.
Improving data on individual exposures. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record (ILER) is the primary Department of Defense and VA application to track, record, and assess environmental and occupational exposure to potentially hazardous substances. Currently, ILER is not scheduled to reach full operating capability until September 2023. To ensure full capability of the ILER, DoD plans to expand and accelerate the development schedule—and add additional data—enabling more comprehensive information on health risks of potential exposures to be more rapidly incorporated into service member and veterans medical care and benefit decisions.
Raising awareness of VA benefits related to military exposures. Many veterans are unaware of their eligibility for benefits and services related to potential military exposures. In addition, some claims adjudicators may not have up-to-date awareness of recent policies related to conditions newly presumed to be service-connected. In October 2021, VA launched an outreach campaign to inform service members and veterans about eligibility and benefits related to chronic disabilities that may be due to military exposures while in service. This includes efforts to embed educational and outreach materials into the Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) and as part of the Solid Start program, which reaches out to transitioning service members at regular intervals during the first year following their military separation. VA will also initiate new public service announcements and live events to encourage early and regular engagement with VA and other federal agencies for benefits, health care, and other services. VA also plans to provide refresher trainings for all claims processors, share information related to military exposures, and host a series of Q&A sessions related to implementation of the new presumptive disabilities that were implemented this summer. VA will also revise Frequently Asked Question materials and call scripts to ensure that front line employees are able to better assist veterans through the claims process.
Expanding training for VA and non-VA providers. Veterans often find that their providers and compensation and pension examiners are not well-trained to understand or treat veterans’ exposure concerns. To address this issue, VA has completed a contract with the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) to provide a five-module certificate training program in military environmental exposures. This will provide a basic level of competence for all VA- and non-VA providers across the nation that will help better treat veterans with concerns about toxic exposures. VA will require all providers to complete the first module of this training for an entry-level understanding of the health outcomes of military exposures and encourage the remaining four modules for certification.
Establishing network of specialized providers and call center. Veterans with concerns about the health outcomes of military exposures experience inconsistent care to address these specific issues, especially outside of VA. Beginning in 2022, VA will launch VET-HOME, The Veterans Exposure Team-Health Outcomes of Military Exposures. VET-HOME will consist of two interconnected parts: a call center for veterans and providers, and a nationwide network of specialists. Veterans with questions about environmental exposures will call into a central location and be guided through the registry exam or environmental exposure process. They would then be referred to one of 40 environmental health providers across the United States who would use a telemedicine platform to assess and if necessary refer the veteran to a VA facility to complete any specialty testing, like a pulmonary function test or other lab work. Providers with questions on military exposures would be referred to one the 40 military environmental heath subject matter experts. The results of the consultation would be shared with the veteran’s primary care doctor, helping to deliver better care to the veteran.
Extending Eligibility Period for VA Health Care. Some Veterans do not have concerns about their health until several years after deployment or leaving service. At present, VA allows veterans to receive free VA health care for up to 5 years after discharge or release for any condition related to service in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan or Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) or Operation New Dawn (OND) in Iraq. This is called an “enhanced eligibility period.” To ensure that veterans who served in these conflicts have access to health care from VA, the Administration will call upon Congress to implement a change to the statute to enable a longer enhanced enrollment period for the 3 million veterans who deployed to support recent combat operations.
Taken together, these actions will improve our understanding of the health effects of military-related exposures, educate providers and veterans about these exposures, and provide timelier access to health services and benefits for individuals who were exposed. The Administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards during their military service. At the same time, the Administration will work with Congress on its encouraging ongoing efforts to ensure we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-connected disabilities, in order to live up to our sacred obligation to provide veterans the care they have earned.
All too often, especially in the Trump years, veterans and active military have been used as props and as pawns to achieve personal and political gain. Trump demeaned Senator John McCain’s heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and later called those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “losers and suckers” and repeatedly questioned the intelligence of those who serveand couldn’t be bothered to visit the graves of Americans who died in World War I in a cemetery while in France.
Well before Joe Biden became President, he and First Lady Jill Biden were activists on behalf of the military, veterans and military families. As Second Lady, Jill Biden teamed with then First Lady Michelle Obama to create Joining Forces – the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors – to solve many of the problems that military families and veterans face.Now, as President, Biden has advanced policies on behalf of active military, veterans and their familiesand the First Lady continues her work with Joining Forces.
I often have problems each Veterans Day and Memorial Day because these events shroud the horrors of war in glory – necessary because otherwise no one would sign up. And I have often warned about the difference between lying the nation into war as George W. Bush did to invade Iraq, and Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon did during Vietnam, using war for political gain, as Reagan did in invading Grenada, being used by callous business interests to make their fortune, like World War I, and a justified war like World War II.
This Veterans Day, November 11, 2021, Biden’s Proclamation is genuine and speaks to this administration’s commitment: “Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home.”— Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com
VETERANS DAY, 2021
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For generations, millions of Americans have answered the call to serve — taking the sacred oath to defend and preserve our Nation’s ideals of liberty and democracy. These patriots represent the best of us. On Veterans Day, we honor their service, dedication, and valor and are forever grateful for their sacrifice.
Our Nation has only one truly sacred obligation: to properly prepare and equip our service members when we send them into harm’s way and to care for them and their families when they return home. For our 19 million veterans, that means ensuring that they have access to the support and resources for a future of security, opportunity, and dignity. This is even more important as we continue to recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Our obligation to support our Nation’s veterans and their families is personal for me and the entire Biden family, and I remain committed to ensuring that every veteran receives the care and support they have earned. The recently passed bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will create millions of good jobs for veterans and grow opportunities for veteran-owned businesses. My Build Back Better framework also prioritizes improvements to VA health care, ensuring that every veteran — including our often-underserved female and LGBTQ+ veterans — receives competent, world-class health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Last month, the White House Gender Policy Council released the first-ever United States Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which included the unique needs and contributions of women service members and veterans. And the Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to get every eligible veteran the information and opportunity they need to register and vote, protecting their voice in the democracy they fought to preserve.
Ensuring veterans have timely access to services and benefits is at the center of my Administration’s commitment to fulfilling our sacred obligation. This includes addressing the adverse health effects of service-related exposures. In August, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it will begin processing disability claims for respiratory conditions connected to exposure during military service in Southwest Asia and other areas. My Administration also added three conditions to the list of those presumptively associated with exposure to Agent Orange, ending the long wait for disability benefits for many Vietnam era veterans. In the coming months, we are committed to taking additional action to address potential adverse health effects associated with military environmental exposures.
So many of our veterans carry the scars from their service — both visible and invisible — and it is our Nation’s responsibility to help them heal. Too many veterans and service members have considered suicide or taken their own lives, and addressing this tragedy is a national responsibility. That is why I have made military and veteran suicide prevention a top priority, and earlier this month, I released a new comprehensive, cross-sector public health strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide. Implementing this approach will unite us around a common mission and accelerate meaningful improvements in suicide prevention programs, helping us live up to our sacred obligation to those who have served in our Nation’s Armed Forces.
Fulfilling our Nation’s promise to our veterans and military families, caregivers, and survivors is not only a moral imperative — it is crucial to our national security and to maintaining the finest military the world has ever known. We are a Nation that keeps our promises. That is why my Administration is dedicated to a whole-of-government approach in responding to the needs of our veterans and their families, caregivers, and survivors.
Through the First Lady’s work with Joining Forces — the White House initiative to support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors — my Administration is addressing employment and entrepreneurship, military and veteran child education, and health and well-being for veteran families. Earlier this year, the First Lady met with military and veteran families to learn how we can better support and prioritize their needs, and in September, Joining Forces and the National Security Council released a report outlining the first round of Administration-wide commitments and proposals that support veteran and military families, caregivers, and survivors. These efforts will honor our sacred obligation to support our veteran families and ensure they receive the resources they need to thrive.
On Veterans Day, we honor our Nation’s veterans, who have given so much to protect our freedoms and the freedom of others around the globe. They represent the highest ideals of our country. While we can never fully repay the debt we owe these heroes, we will honor their service and provide them the care and support they deserve. We also salute and show gratitude for all who ensure our Armed Forces remain strong, united, and unmatched…
I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor, courage, and sacrifice of our veterans through appropriate ceremonies and private prayers. I call upon Federal, State, and local officials to display the flag of the United States of America and to participate in patriotic activities in their communities. And I call on all Americans, including civic and fraternal organizations, places of worship, schools, and communities, to support this day with commemorative expressions and programs.
Using his trademark restraint, Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate for Trump, could not contain his revulsion and distress in condemning in harshest terms Donald Trump’s remarks denigrating POWs and the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The speech was supposed to be about the economy, and despite some favorable jobs numbers which have brought down the unemployment rate somewhat, a take-down of Trump’s incompetent handling of COVID-19 and the economy and lack of leadership which have made the situation so much worse. But the revelations the night before about remarks Trump made concerning the military, on top of Trump’s call to supporters to vote twice, and his refusal, yet again, to say anything against Vladimir Putin, prompted him to say, in response to a question, “I’ve never been as disappointed in my whole career with a leader that I’ve worked with, president or otherwise. If [the Atlantic] article is true, based on other things he has said, it is damnable. A disgrace….
“It is sick. It is deplorable. It is so un-American, so unpatriotic.”
The comments attributed to Trump, he said, “affirm what we already know to be true: Donald Trump is not fit for the job of president, or to hold the title commander in chief.”
Biden declared, “It is a sacred duty to ensure we properly prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they return home.
“Duty, honor, country — those are the values that drive our service members.
“President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself.
“And if I have the honor of serving as the next Commander-in-Chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.”
And about the jobs report and economic situation, he said, “you can’t deal with the economic crisis until you beat the pandemic.”
“No matter what he says or what he claims, you are not safer in Donald Trump’s America. You are not safe in Trump’s America where people are dying at a rate last seen when Americans were fighting in World War II.”
Here are Vice President Biden’s highlighted remarks:
Before I begin, I wanted to speak to the revelations about President Trump’s disregard for our military and veterans.
They are disgusting. They affirm what we already know to be true: Donald Trump is not fit for the job of president, or to hold the title commander in chief.
The president reportedly said that those who sign up to serve — instead of doing something more lucrative — are suckers. So let me be clear: my son Beau, who volunteered to go to Iraq, was not a sucker.
The men and women who served with him are not suckers, and the service men and women he served with, who did not come home, are not losers.
If these statements are true, the president should humbly apologize to every person in uniform, and every Gold Star and Blue Star family he has insulted.
Who the hell does he think he is?
Is it true? Well, we’ve heard from his own mouth his characterization of American hero John McCain as a loser, and his dismissal of the traumatic brain injuries suffered by troops serving in Iraq as mere “‘headaches.”
He stood by, failing to take action or even raise the issue with Vladimir Putin, while the Kremlin put bounties on the heads of American troops serving in Afghanistan.
It is a sacred duty to ensure we properly prepare and equip those we send into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families, both while they are deployed and after they return home.
Duty, honor, country — those are the values that drive our service members.
President Trump has demonstrated he has no sense of service, no loyalty to any cause other than himself.
And if I have the honor of serving as the next Commander-in-Chief, I will ensure that our American heroes know I will have their back and honor their sacrifice — always.
And that’s just another marker of how deeply President Trump and I disagree about the role of the President of the United States.
The August jobs report came out this morning.
I am grateful for everyone who found work again and found a glimmer of hope that brings them back from the edge.
But there is real cause for concern, too.
The pace of job gains in August was slower than in July — and significantly slower than May or June.
More and more temporary layoffs are turning into permanent layoffs.
After six months in the pandemic, we are less than halfway back to where we were — with 11.5 Million Americans not yet getting their jobs back.
We’re still down 720,000 manufacturing jobs. In fact, Trump may well be the only president in modern history to leave office with fewer jobs than when he took office.
Talk to a lot of real working people who are being left behind — ask them, do you feel the economy is coming back?
They don’t feel it.
That’s why I’m here today.
Thank you, Paul Calistro and his team, for hosting us at West End Neighborhood House here in Wilmington.
You continue a tradition of doing God’s work for this community.
For more than 130 years, through pandemics, wars, and depression, West End has been there for generations of people who are just looking for a chance. Not a handout.
Just a fair shot at a good job, a safe place to live, and a better life to pass down to their kids.
And it’s a special place for the Biden family. My daughter Ashley worked here as a caseworker helping young people aging out of foster care.
When he was Attorney General of Delaware, my son Beau came here – right here – to learn more about its job training programs for folks working toward a GED and a certificate for a good-paying job.
And when I was Senator and Vice President, there were plenty of economists around to talk about how the economy was doing.
But I’d always think about the people who walk through these doors.
If working people — white, Black, Brown, Latino — here were doing okay, then I knew the economy was doing okay. If they weren’t, then I knew we weren’t.
And that’s what we should think about with the latest jobs report.
But the report reinforces our worst fears and painful truths — the economic inequities that began before the downturn have only worsened under this failed presidency.
When the crisis started, we all hoped for a few months of a shutdown followed by a rapid economic turnaround. No one thought they’d lose their job for good or see small businesses shut down in mass.
But that kind of recovery requires leadership — leadership we just don’t have.
As a result, economists are starting to call this a K-shaped recovery — which is a fancy phrase for what’s been wrong with everything about Trump’s presidency.
The “K” means that those at the top see things go up, but those in the middle and below see things get worse.
That’s no surprise because at the root of this is the fact that Trump has managed COVID to become a K-shaped pandemic.
First, the president’s chaotic mismanagement of the pandemic is still holding us back.
And compared to other major industrial countries in Europe and Asia during the pandemic, our unemployment rate has still more than doubled while those nations have only gone up by less than half.
Why? Because the president has botched the COVID response. Botched it badly.
I’ve said from the beginning, you can’t deal with the economic crisis until you beat the pandemic.
You can’t have a full economic comeback, when almost 1,000 Americans die each day from COVID, when the death toll is about to reach 200,000, when more than six million Americans have been infected, and when millions more are worried about getting sick and dying as schools and businesses try to reopen. And we all know it didn’t have to be this bad. It didn’t have to be this bad if the president just did his job.
If he just took this virus seriously early on in January and February as it spread around the globe.
If he just took the steps we needed back in March and April to institute widespread testing and tracing to control the spread.
If he provided clear, national, and science-based guidance to state and local authorities, and if he had just set a good example like social distancing and mask wearing. Not that much to ask.
But it’s almost like he doesn’t care because it doesn’t affect him and his class of friends.
Anyone with a big enough checkbook can get a rapid test on demand.
If you don’t, you might have to wait in line for hours and weeks for results — if you can get a test at all.
If you have the kind of job where you can work on your laptop — at home, or remotely — your risk of getting COVID at work is small.
This jobs report shows that 37 million workers reported teleworking in August.
But if you work on an assembly line or at a checkout counter orat a meat packing plant, or if you drive a truck or deliver packages — you’re at greater risk.
And the jobs report shows that more than 24 million workers reported that they couldn’t work or lost hours because their employer had to close or lost business due to the pandemic.
If you can hire a private tutor, or have live-in child care, you can balance being a parent and remote schooling.
If you can’t, you have to do your job and be a teacher all at once.
Jill and I just held a briefing on reopening schools safely two days ago, asking the questions we hear from so many parents and educators who feel like they are in an impossible situation: What are we supposed to do with our children when the president has made it so hard for schools to reopen safely?
What’s the alternative when it’s devastating to keep them isolated from their friends and support system?
I also said earlier this week, to the shock of many, that we have lost more cops this year to covid than when they’re on patrol.
It’s a reminder how a dangerous job — law enforcement — has gotten more dangerous due to Trump’s mismanagement.
What may be just as shocking as that is many other jobs have also become dangerous due to Covid.
Being a health care worker is now more dangerous than ever — we’ve lost hundreds of them this year because they weren’t protected from COVID on the job.
Being a meat packer is more dangerous — so many have died due to getting COVID at work.
Work for waiters and waitresses and transit workers has all become more dangerous with so many dying of COVID.
Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what he says or what he claims, you are not safer in Donald Trump’s America. You are not safe in Trump’s America where people are dying at a rate last seen when Americans were fighting in World War II.
Donald Trump’s malpractice during this pandemic has made being a working American life-or-death work.
And while there’s a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino, Asian American, and Native American working class communities — white working class communities are being hit hard, too.
Opioid deaths, for example, are up during the pandemic —another crisis that President Trump all but ignores.
In the meantime, Trump and his friends have strong views about what the rest of America should do:
Cut unemployment benefits to force people to go back on their jobs.
Defund Social Security and eliminate Obamacare — in the middle of a pandemic.
Reopen public schools without resources or guidance.
Reopen businesses without protection for workers so corporations can continue to soar
This is their plan?
Second, and similarly, the economic pain remains unrelenting for millions of working people of every race and background who aren’t getting the relief they need.
Meanwhile the wealthy are doing just fine, if not better than ever.
This divergence in fortune is unique to any recession in recent memory.
And the painful truth is we have a president who just doesn’t see it.
Who doesn’t feel it. Who doesn’t understand. He just doesn’t care.
He thinks if the stock market is up, then everything is great.
If his rich friends and donors are doing well, then everyone is doing well.
If corporations see their valuations rising — then they must be hiring.
But even the best economists know what I know growing up in neighborhoods in Scranton, Pennsylvania and Claymont, Delaware — places where folks aren’t invested in the market like wealthier Americans.
The measure of our economic success is the quality of life of the American people. And if our stocks soar as families teeter on the brink of hunger and homelessness — and our president calls that a success — what does that say about what he values?
When you see the world in such a narrow way, it’s no wonder he doesn’t see the nearly 30 million Americans on unemployment, and 1 in 6 small businesses that are closed right now.
He doesn’t understand what life is like for people walking by their boarded up shop — educators afraid that doing the job they love will bring the virus home to the people they love — or a parent searching for health insurance now that the furlough has turned into a layoff.
It’s no wonder he doesn’t see the single mom forced to wait in a three-hour food line for the first time in her life because she’s now part of a record 1 in 6 households with children that don’t have enough food to eat.
He wants us to believe that we’re doing better — to keep it up while we’re still in a deep, deep hole —and our country faces a historic divergence in our way of life.
Which gets to my third point and final point — and what the American people really need to understand — all the pain and suffering stems from President Trump’s failure to lead.
His sheer inability and unwillingness to bring people together.
He likes to sign executive actions for photo ops. But they are ill-conceived and could do more harm than good.
He says he is protecting renters from eviction, but he’s not giving them any support to pay their rent.
Millions of Americans will ultimately be left with a terrible choice between eviction and living on the street — or paying back rent they simply don’t have.
He says he is continuing to provide enhanced unemployment insurance payments — but he cut the amount for everyone on it and will leave them on the edge when it runs out in a few weeks or sooner.
What he should be doing is calling Congressional leaders together — immediately — to get a deal that delivers real relief to the American people.
If I were president, that’s what I would do — and I’d get it done.
Rental, food, unemployment assistance to tens of millions of struggling Americans.
Student loan relief, small business support, and aid to schools and state governments. And as long as this pandemic and the accompanying economic catastrophe persist, no one should have their water or their power cut off because they can’t afford to pay the bill.
Bottom line, Mr. President — do your job.
Get off your golf course and out of the sand bunker. Call the leaders of Congress together. Get them into the Oval Office. Make a deal that delivers for working people.
In July, I laid out my Build Back Better plan for an economy that works for everyone.
Over the next three weeks, I will be laying out the sharp contrast with President Trump.
I’ll be asking the American people three basic questions: Who can handle the pandemic? Who can keep their promises? Who cares about and will fight for working families?
Like the people here at West End. Throughout this pandemic, they found a way to keep the center open safely to provide their critical services.
No one was laid off. They adjusted their space for social distancing. They started a lending program to help local small businesses.
They continued their child care services, which is critical for so many working families. By pure courage, heart and gut, they never give up and they never give in as they pursue the full promise of America.
That’s the story of the people of this community and of this country. That’s who we are.
Give ordinary Americans just a half a chance and they will do extraordinary things.
They’ll never let America down — and unlike the current President — I won’t either.
Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down in Iraq, addressed the Democratic National Convention on Joe Biden’s longtime and genuine support for active military, their families, and veterans, both because he lived the experience and because he brings a genuine compassion, dignity, integrity to leadership. She offered some of the most damning accusations against the incumbent Donald Trump, calling him “Coward-in-Chief who won’t stand up to Vladamir Putin, read his daily intelligence briefings or even publicly admonish adversaries for reportedly putting bounties on our troops’ heads.
“As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet. He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego. He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights. Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right… stand tall for our troops… and stand strong against our enemies. Because unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency.”
Here are Senator Duckworth’s highlighted remarks:
Good evening. I’m Tammy Duckworth.
When I first enlisted in the Army, I was eager to serve my country… yet anxious whether I’d be able to earn my way into the ranks.
But I earned my wings and later commanded my own air assault unit, learning that serving—and leading—in the military is both a privilege and a sacrifice.
To be a commander, you must always put your Troops first—because one day, you may order them to sacrifice everything for our great nation.
To do that, leaders must command their Troops’ respect—and be worthy of their pledge to protect and defend our Constitution, no matter the cost.
But military service doesn’t just take sacrifice from those in uniform—it’s required from their families, too.
My husband Bryan was the one who rushed to Walter Reed after I was wounded in Iraq.
He was the one holding my hand, waiting for me to wake up…
…when I finally did, he was my rock, getting me through those hours… weeks… months of unspeakable pain and unending surgeries.
He was my anchor as I relearned to walk, helping me through every step… every stumble.
Our military spouses hold their families together… praying for their loved one’s safety wherever they’re deployed, serving as caregivers to our disabled servicemembers, then picking up the pieces and starting again whenever the next tour… or the next war… arises.
Joe Biden understands these sacrifices, because he’s made them himself.
When his son Beau deployed to Iraq, his burden was also shouldered by his family.
Joe knows the fear military families live with because he’s felt that dread of never knowing if your deployed loved one is safe.
He understands their bravery because he had to muster that same strength every hour of every day Beau was overseas.
That’s the kind of leader our servicemembers deserve: one who understands the risks they face and who would actually protect them by doing his job as Commander-in-Chief.
Instead they have a Coward-in-Chief who won’t stand up to Vladamir Putin, read his daily intelligence briefings or even publicly admonish adversaries for reportedly putting bounties on our troops’ heads.
As President, Joe Biden would never let tyrants manipulate him like a puppet.
He would never pervert our military to stroke his own ego.
He would never turn his back on our troops or threaten them against Americans peacefully exercising their Constitutional rights.
Joe Biden would stand up for what’s right… stand tall for our troops… and stand strong against our enemies.
Because unlike Trump, Joe Biden has common decency.
He has common sense.
He can command… from both experience and from strength.
Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to call himself Commander-in-Chief for another four minutes—let alone another four years.
Our troops deserve better.
Our country deserves better.
If you agree, text “MORE” to 3-0-3-3-0 to elect Joe Biden: a leader who actually cares enough about America to lead.
As Second Lady in the Obama Administration, Dr. Jill Biden worked closely with First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of bettering lives for military families. VP Joe Biden, candidate for President, is proposing a plan to reinvigorate and expand that program for military families, caregivers and survivors. This is from the Biden campaign:
FACT SHEET: The Biden Plan to Fulfill Our Commitment to Military Families, Caregivers and Survivors
As parents of a service member who deployed to Iraq, Vice
President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden understand that it’s not just military
members who sign up to serve our nation, their families do too. The Bidens
understand the sleepless nights, wondering if your deployed loved one is safe;
the difficulties children experience while their parent is serving far away;
and all the added sacrifices and challenges, big and small, military families
face because they choose selfless service. Our military families never fail to
give their best to the United States, and we owe them our best in return.
Less than one percent of Americans sign up to serve. They volunteer to
shoulder the sacrifices necessary to keep our country safe. That’s why Vice
President Biden has long been adamant that, as a nation, our one truly sacred
obligation is to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them to
war, and to take care of them and their families — during deployments and when
they return home.
Building on the Biden Commitment to Military Families
The Obama-Biden Administration made support for our military families a
signature issue–and a personal priority. Together with First Lady Michelle
Obama, Dr. Biden created Joining Forces, a national initiative driving
top-level focus on the issues that matter to military families, service
members, and veterans including employment, education, and wellness. Joining
Forces supported opportunities that led to the hiring or training of more
than 1.5 million veterans and
military spouses and drove reforms in all 50 states to reduce credentialing
barriers for qualified military spouses seeking employment. Dr. Biden also
supported the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Military Spouse Employment
Partnership, which brought together hundreds of companies to help 100,000 military spouses find
As a life-long educator, Dr. Biden spearheaded “Educate the Educators”–a
commitment from more than 100 colleges and universities to
take steps to meet the unique needs of military-connected children–and championed the GI Comparison tool to
help veterans and military family members choose high-quality post-secondary
educational institutions. She also worked to make sure that all 50 states signed the Interstate
Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children to better
address relocation challenges facing military school-aged children.
Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden continued this commitment after leaving
office, making support for military families a key focus of their continued
public service. The Biden Foundation sought to drive
economic opportunity for military spouses, create supportive educational
environments for military-connected children, and change the conversation
around mental health for service members, veterans, and their families.
As President and First Lady, the Bidens will ensure we keep our national
commitment to military families by relaunching and strengthening Joining
Forces, making it a priority for a Biden Administration.
We know that many future service members come from military families. So family
readiness is integral to mission readiness, both now and in the future. This
cannot be an afterthought. It is a national security imperative, and it should
be resourced and supported as such.
Providing Resources for Military Spouses, Caregivers, and
Prioritizing Support for Military Children
President Biden will inspire a future generation of
Americans to volunteer for military service by ensuring we fulfill our
obligations to the generations who have already answered the call to serve our
country and by supporting the well-being of ALL military families.
Modernize Compensation to
Keep Pace with the Current Economy: Today,
more military families are struggling to make ends meet, and
some report food insecurity, lack of quality childcare, and poor financial health.
That is totally unacceptable. Military service members and their families risk
everything for our country–they must be guaranteed a living wage. But the
existing compensation framework simply does not allow military
families–especially those who are young and more vulnerable–to thrive in
today’s modern economy. President Biden will work aggressively to update the
federal workforce compensation framework for service members so that the
government leads the way in ensuring hard-working families can attain a middle
class life, and he will support legislation which will, in the meantime,
provide an additional allowance for military families living below the poverty
Create Stability by
Increasing Time between Permanent Change of Station (PCS) Moves: Every year, more than 400,000 Permanent Change of Station
(PCS) moves occur for service members and their families. This
system is expensive, and it is broken. Military families consider frequent
relocation as a driver for negative outcomes in career opportunities for military
spouses, military child education, and the
development of supportive social networks. While every service member and
family understands that mission is paramount, we must invest in solutions that
build stability for families and set conditions for service member retention
and military family well-being.
As president, Biden will commission research and develop solutions to support
the increase of time between PCS moves while ensuring we meet targets for
Operational and Personnel Tempo in order to meet our national security demands.
This will require that we comprehensively examine the potential positive and
negative impacts of any changes to deployment cycles, unit assignment policies,
and force size calculations. One such solution could be investing in the
creation of virtual or hybrid learning scenarios for mandatory Professional
Military Education (PME) so that service members and their families can remain
in place, rather than PCS to a new base for a short educational tour.
Ensure Military Spouse
Professional and Economic Opportunity: Military
spouses are often more highly educated than their civilian peers, yet they face
an unemployment rate of around 30%. Frequent relocation
and high operational tempos often stifle their career trajectory. The military
personnel system was designed with the single-earner family in mind, but many
military families, like their civilian counterparts, depend on earning a second
income or simply want the opportunity for the military spouse to pursue a
career. Military families are increasingly experiencing challenges such
as food insecurity or insufficient savings for
emergencies, and with far too many military spouses unemployed or
underemployed, meeting these needs is a challenge. LGBTQ military spouses may
also be disproportionately affected when they reside in states that are allowed
to discriminate based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Trump Administration has not only allowed but encouraged these
discriminatory practices, all while claiming to support the military. It’s
hypocritical and just plain wrong.
To increase economic opportunity for military spouses, President Biden will:
Invest $500 million in a 3-year Department of Defense (DOD)
military spouse entrepreneurship pilot program, which will provide
micro-grants, mentorship, and technical assistance to military spouses who are
interested in starting or growing small businesses.
Ensure that the DoD’s Military Spouse Education and Career
Opportunity office is fully funded and staffed so that effective programming
such as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP), My Career
Advancement Account (MyCAA) scholarships, and the Military Spouse Transition
Program (MySTeP) have the opportunity to deliver results and raise awareness
and utilization among military families.
Build bridges between the private sector and the U.S.
government to help educate employers about the value of military spouse talent,
drive commitments to hire, retain, and promote them, and create concrete career
opportunities, as Joining Forces did.
Expand the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) to include
Undo the Trump administration’s discriminatory policies and
redouble efforts with state officials to ensure that LGBTQ military spouses
have the support they need to pursue successful careers.
Continue efforts begun during the Obama-Biden Administration
to put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements. While
licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many
occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If a
military spouse who works in an occupation that requires a license or
credential and has to move because of their military member’s career, they may
have to get certified all over again. As president, Biden will build on the
Obama-Biden Administration’s efforts to incentivize states to reduce unnecessary
licensing requirements and to ensure licenses are transferable from one state
to the next.
Fully fund installation-based child care facilities and
expand awareness of the DoD fee assistance program, as supported by leading advocates
for military families,, so that military spouses can more easily
pursue their educations and careers and tap into respite care to relieve
stressors of deployments.
for Caregivers:Caregivers of
wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans face a variety of
challenges, including negative health outcomes, lost wages, and difficulties
planning their future. They are essential to military families and our
veterans, and we owe them the same commitment and support that they show to our
wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans.
As president, Biden will:
Ensure that caregivers of active duty service members
receive adequate professional and peer support, including competent mental
health care, financial readiness training, and transition support throughout
the rehabilitation timeline (whether that is leading to the service member’s
medical retirement or a return to duty).
Provide transparency and high-touch case management via
in-person or telehealth sessions with caregiver coordinators for those
caregivers enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Caregiver
Support Program, especially to provide personalized assistance as they navigate
dual eligibility for benefits and services from both the DoD and VA.
A critical part of meeting our commitment to military
families is to do so on time, something the Trump Administration has failed to
do. President Biden will ensure that the eligibility expansion for the VA
Caregiver Support Program meets its timelines and collects longitudinal
satisfaction data through regular surveying of those enrolled or enrolling in
Help caregivers of wounded, ill, injured, or elderly
veterans pay for long-term care by providing relief through the creation of a
$5,000 tax credit for informal caregivers, modeled off of legislation supported
by AARP. This tax credit will be in addition to the financial support provided
by the VA Caregiver program.
Support proposals to expand opportunities for much needed
respite care for caregivers, to include those offered within DoD, VA, and
through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Institute a waiver for the Survivors’ and Dependents’
Educational Assistance Program (Chapter 35), so that spouses and survivors who
have not accessed their benefits in the allotted time frame will have the
opportunity to request additional time.
Improve Military Child
Education: There are more
than 1 million children of active
duty service members worldwide. Whether they are educated in Department of
Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools, local school districts, parochial
schools, home schools, or online schools, military children require support to
ensure they have every opportunity to succeed in their education.
As president, Biden will:
Propose legislation to expand the Military Student
Identifier (MSI) to all military-connected
children (to include children of National Guard and Reserve personnel
regardless of activation/order status), children of veterans, and children of
deceased service members or veterans, who are often impacted by the service of
their parents. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we passed into law the
Every Student Succeeds Act, which included the MSI, a designation that allows
educators and schools to better understand where military-connected children
are receiving their education, and how we can better support
them. Currently, the MSI extends only to children of active duty service
members, excluding children of National Guard, Reserve, veterans, caregivers,
and children of the fallen. But these children face unique challenges too,
and we need to know who they are so we can determine what support they need .
Promote efforts across states to streamline enrollment
requirements, standardize educational resources, and train teachers and
school-based leadership to ensure we are meeting the unique needs of military
children effectively, no matter where they study or how often they have to
Promote greater awareness of the Interstate Compact on
Educational Opportunity for Military Children among military families,
teachers, and administrators.
Create and disseminate training tools that empower
military-connected parents to better advocate for their children.
Provide financial incentives for school districts to train
educators on the unique needs and barriers faced by military-connected youth so
that they are able to help military children thrive, no matter where they
receive their education.
Support and protect post-9/11 GI benefits for veterans and
qualified family members by strengthening the GI Bill Comparison Tool and
School Feedback Tool to help put an end to post-secondary institutions’
Enact legislation eliminating the so-called 90/10 loophole
that gives for-profit schools an incentive to enroll veterans, service members,
and military family members who are using the GI Bill or Tuition Assistance in
programs that aren’t delivering results.
Improve Behavioral Health Services for Military Dependents: Children and spouses in military families are
resilient, but they do experience high levels of stress, whether due to
frequent moves, deployment and training schedules of the service member, or
weak social/emotional support networks. School-age children and adolescents who
experience separation from a parent (either through deployment or other
assignments) show higher levels
of emotional and behavioral distress. About 25 percent of high
school freshmen and juniors in a military family have reported suicidal
thoughts during the previous year, and the stresses of military life can exacerbate health issues,
among them depression, anxiety, or substance use disorders.
Biden has committed to achieving mental health parity, expanding access to
behavioral health care, and removing the stigma surrounding behavioral health
issues. He will redouble our efforts to ensure enforcement of mental health
parity laws and expand funding for mental health services.
It is also essential that we invest in an infrastructure that promotes health
and well-being, reduces risky behaviors, and provides timely, convenient access
to high-quality mental health and substance use/abuse services for military
dependents. We must ensure that DoD facilities are fully staffed, equipped,
resourced, and able to support the behavioral health of military dependents. If
this capacity is not in place, we must invest in solutions to create additional
affordable, accessible, and high-quality capacity in the civilian sector. Care
must be effective and grounded in evidence-based treatments. Providers must be
culturally competent, educated in the unique needs of military families. And
families who seek support should never go into debt for treatment or be
concerned about confidentiality.
The Biden Administration will:
Increase funding for and expand access to telehealth for
military families, particularly in areas not able to access timely care.
Expand the number of free, non-medical Military OneSource
counseling sessions for military families from 12 sessions to 18
and expand access to Coast Guard families regardless of activation status.
Invest in recruiting and retaining behavioral health care
professionals in military treatment facilities to ensure there are enough
clinicians to support the needs of not only our active duty force, but military
Redefine the federal “Health Professional Shortage Areas”
(HPSAs) to specifically include military-impacted geographies.
Expand the National Health Services Corps to incentivize
early professional behavioral health providers to serve this population.
Re-prioritize and expand the work of the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) interagency task force on the
behavioral health needs of veterans and military families, to include issues
related to traumatic brain injury, substance use disorder and addiction, and
other related conditions. Additionally, President Biden will fully restore SAMHSA’s focus on
evidence-based solutions and appoint a specific position on the
Domestic Policy Council to drive a whole-of-government focus on these
Direct the Department of Defense to produce a robust, annual
report on the state of military family behavioral health, in coordination with
VA and SAMHSA.
Housing: The government has
broken its trust with military families by providing sub-par housing. Now, we
have to work twice as hard to rebuild this trust. That will require the utmost
transparency and accountability from both the government and the private sector
partners charged with housing the families of our service members.
The Biden Administration will:
Enforce a comprehensive and standardized tenant bill of
rights for all military families, and as advocates have rightly demanded,
ensure DoD senior leadership enforces compliance. We won’t be making more
empty promises to military families. We will hold these landlords, and
Require regular, standardized, objective, and published
reporting of military family satisfaction and concerns from all housing.
Establish a public-facing document outlining expectations of
quality and consequences for all housing providers and, when necessary,
terminate long-term leases held by private companies.
Families: Long periods of
sustained war-fighting have made us reactive in our responses to military
family needs. To best support these families and optimize their health and
well-being, we must improve our understanding of their current and emerging
needs. We can’t be caught on our heels. We must anticipate and prepare
solutions that respond to the evolving needs of military families across the
military life cycle. We must be able to track and identify emerging trends so
that we can be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of our military
As president, Biden will:
Convene a multi-disciplinary working group of policy makers,
program leaders, and research and subject-matter experts to construct a
strategic research plan to inform solutions to support military families.
Designate specific resources for research and development
related to military families outcomes within the budget of the Office of the
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to include resources
for research within both the Military Family and Community Policy and the
Defense Health Program.
Require that DoD work across the federal government to
leverage national and state-level assessments of health and well-being to
ensure they appropriately assess military affiliation in ongoing data
collections across the United States. It is imperative that all national
surveys include variables that allow us to examine how well military families
fare relative to others.
WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders on Veterans Day released his veterans agenda, called “Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans,” which will guarantee veterans the benefits and services they were promised, protect and expand disability benefits for veterans, guarantee justice for veterans and expand opportunities for veterans. The proposal comes as Americans around the country honor Veterans Day.
This is from the Sanders campaign:
“As a nation, we have a moral obligation to provide the best quality care to those who put their lives on the line to defend us,” Sanders, who served as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2015, said. “Just as planes and tanks and guns are a cost of war, so is taking care of the men and women who we sent off to fight the wars. It includes caring for the spouses and children who have to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one. It includes caring for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with multiple amputations or loss of eyesight, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. It includes veterans who are having difficulty keeping jobs in order to pay their bills, and it includes the terrible tragedy of veterans committing suicide. As president, I will do everything that I can to make sure that every veteran gets the benefits that they are entitled to receive on time and without delay. Further, we will not dismantle or privatize the VA. We will expand and improve the VA.”
During Sanders’ time as Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, a series of reports revealed that the Veterans Health Administration was failing veterans, leaving many to wait too long for care and putting lives in danger. Sanders worked with Sen. John McCain to successfully negotiate and pass a bill that invested billions into the VA system. The landmark legislation authorized twenty-seven new medical facilities and provided $5 billion to hire more doctors and nurses to care for the surging number of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and those veterans from earlier eras in need of more complex care.
The Sanders campaign on Monday also released a new video, “Keeping Our Promise,” which highlights Sanders’ work on that landmark legislation.
Sanders’ plan will:
the nearly 50,000 vacancies at the VA during your first year in office. Under a
Bernie Sanders administration, the VA will hire the doctors, nurses and medical
professionals necessary to provide the care that veterans need when they need
Provide at least $62 billion in new funding
to repair, modernize and rebuild the infrastructure at the VA in order to
provide the cutting-edge health care services our veterans have earned and
Ensure that all those with prior military
service in every state and territory have access to the full complement of
health care services they need to stay healthy and well.
Improve and simplify the claims process so
veterans receive the compensation they have earned quickly, accurately, and
without bureaucratic red tape.
Reform harmful VA regulations that restrict
access to care and benefits based on character of discharge.
Ensure veterans can use the full complement
of benefits through the G.I. Bill without hassle or red tape.
Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to support and protect America’s veterans, service members and military families ahead of Veterans Day.
“All three of my
brothers served, so I know the responsibility we have to our service members,
military families, and veterans. As Commander-in-Chief, I will lead our Armed
Forces with awareness of the unique challenges service members and military
families face, and the difficulties veterans encounter as they navigate VA
during their transition to civilian life. I will honor our troops not only by
executing sound military strategy, but also by caring for our veterans after
they take off the uniform. And I will prioritize our most important strategic
asset – our people – as I reform Pentagon spending and address our most
pressing national security crises. The way I see it, this is not complicated.
It’s about a government that keeps its promises to those who served — it’s
about our values. “
This is from the
Charlestown, MA – As President, Senator Elizabeth Warren pledged to:
Raise service members’ pay at or above the Employment Cost
Index and protect earned benefits, ensuring that total compensation remains
competitive with the civilian sector and that it reflects the unique demands of
Prioritize family readiness by addressing spouse employment,
housing, child care and education, and take care of military caregivers
Expand mental health services and work to end military
suicide by setting a goal of cutting veterans’ suicides in half within her
Tackle sexual assault and prosecute sexual harassment as a
stand-alone crime under military law
Enforce equal treatment for all who serve, including women,
immigrants, and LGBTQ+ service members
Ease the transition for veterans by eliminating the benefits
backlog and establishing a “warm hand-off” between DOD and VA
Reject attempts to privatize the VA by investing in a VA
worthy of the veterans it serves — to provide the high-quality,
evidence-based, culturally competent programs that our veterans rely on for
years to come.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,
Elizabeth has worked to achieve pay raises for senior enlisted
personnel, fix repeated promotion delays for
our National Guard, and fought to protect military families from fraud and
abuse. Major provisions of her bill with Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) to
address unsafe and unsanitary housing conditions on military bases were
included as part of the Senate-passed FY2020 NDAA.
Keeping Our Promises to Our Service Members, Veterans,
and Military Families
This Veterans Day, Americans will gather in towns and cities
across our country to thank our military personnel past and present. With three
brothers who served, this day is especially meaningful to me.
Less than 1% of the U.S. population currently serves in
uniform. And while Americans rightly honor their service on November 11, too
often the day-to-day sacrifices of military families go unseen and unremarked.
Parades and salutes to the troops are important ways that Americans express
their gratitude, but they’re only platitudes if they’re not backed up with
meaningful action and policies that support our military both during and after
service — not just on Veterans Day, but every day.
For me, that starts with care in how we deploy our forces
abroad. Defense policy is veterans policy. For decades, we have been mired in a
series of wars that have sapped our strength and skewed our priorities. As a
member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have seen up close how 18
years of conflict have degraded equipment, eroded our forces’ readiness, and
postponed investment in critical military capabilities.
The burden of these wars has fallen primarily on our
military personnel, who have endured repeated deployments in dangerous places
around the globe year after year, and their families. 7,027 American
service members have lost their lives, almost 60,000 have been
injured, and countless more live every day with the invisible wounds of war.
I know our service members and their families are smart,
tough, and resourceful — they will accomplish any mission we ask of them,
whatever the cost. But it’s not fair to our men and women in uniform to ask
them to solve problems that don’t have a military solution. Nor is it fair to
them when we refuse to make the tough calls to change course when our
strategies aren’t working.
A strong military should act as a deterrent so that most of
the time, we won’t have to use it. We can honor our veterans by ending these
endless wars, reining in our bloated defense budget and reducing the influence of defense
contractors at the Pentagon, and bringing our troops home
responsibly — and then providing our veterans with the benefits they’ve
earned. That’s why today I’m introducing my plan to care for our nation’s
veterans, service members, military families, and survivors.
Protecting Earned Benefits for Those Who Serve
In prior generations, America experienced a tight
relationship between people in uniform and the rest of our nation. For a host
of reasons, however, our all-volunteer military is becoming more and more distant
from the population it serves. In recent years the military has sometimes
struggled to attract and retain sufficient personnel to meet recruitment
targets, in both raw numbers and increasingly technical skill sets. A majority of young
people are ineligible to serve, and low unemployment rates and declining propensity for
military service mean that even fewer apply to serve in today’s military. Many
who enlist do so because they have a family member who
It is clear that the services must do more to compete with
21st century careers and employers to continue to attract and retain the best
for the All Volunteer Force. That means more flexible talent management systems
and improved quality of life for service members and their families — and it
also means preserving best-in-class benefits for our military personnel. But
it’s about more than recruitment and readiness. It’s about honoring the
commitment of those who choose to serve with commitments of our own.
Guaranteeing Pay and Benefits
In past years, Congress and the Pentagon have too often
sought to balance the budget on the backs of our service members through
proposals for lower pay raises, increased out-of-pocket costs, and cuts to
benefits like housing and commissaries. Proposals that undermine total
compensation are a betrayal of our obligation to our service members, and they
undermine our ability to recruit and retain the best possible All Volunteer
To ensure that compensation remains competitive with the
civilian sector and that it reflects the unique demands of military life, as
President I will propose pay raises at or above the Employment Cost Index. I’ll
ensure that benefits such as housing allowances keep pace with market rates in
base communities, and work to ensure that service members are educated and
empowered to make decisions about their retirement and savings choices in light
of new options for blended retirement.
Empowering Military Students
Over the past 70 years, the GI Bill has helped send millions
of veterans to college, easing their transition to civilian life, and
contributing to our economic growth. I am committed to ensuring these benefits
are guaranteed and protected in the future — for our veterans and their family
members. I’ve fought to expand eligibility for educational benefits, including
by working to provide Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for Purple Heart recipients who
were not previously eligible, and expanding the Yellow Ribbon education program
to cover families of
fallen service members.
As benefits have increased — and increased in complexity —
as a result of GI Bill expansions, VA has scrambled at times to keep up,
leaving military students in the lurch. I’ve worked to ensure that delays at VA
don’t negatively impact student veterans, including by helping to pass a
bipartisan measure to protect student veterans’ access to education in
the event of delayed GI Bill disbursements.
Too often, the benefits provided to military and veteran
students have made them targets for predatory lenders and shady for-profit
schools. I’ve fought to protect students from these scams, including by
obtaining refunds for military borrowers cheated by loan servicers like
Navient. I also fought to restore GI benefits to
those cheated by fraudulent for-profit colleges like ITT Tech and Corinthian
But there is more to be done. My plan for affordable higher
education will make two- and four-year public college free, and
cancel student loan debt up to $50,000 for 42 million Americans — helping
thousands of military families burdened with higher education expenses beyond
what is covered by the GI Bill, and ensuring all of our veterans and their
families have the chance to get essential job training and degrees without
taking on a dime of student loan debt. My plan also completely cuts shady
for-profit colleges off from federal aid dollars, which will end their abuse of
veteran students for their GI Bill benefits once and for all.
Preventing Fraud and Abuse
When I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I
made protecting service members and veterans a priority. We established an
Office of Servicemember Affairs, and I recruited Holly Petraeus to run it.
Together, we met with active-duty service members and families to discuss
financial issues, including the base where two of my brothers completed their
I saw firsthand that today’s military families face
difficult financial challenges as they try to make ends meet, balancing
multiple deployments with raising a family. Some even told me that they felt like
they were fighting two wars at once – one in a distant war zone and another
here at home against creditors. But I’m proud to say that since 2011, the
office we established has heard from over 90,000 service
members from all 50 states and saved them nearly $230 million, providing
some measure of relief for our military families.
I’ve made fighting for military families a similar priority
in the Senate. I fought to prevent predatory lenders from “loan churning,” or
repeatedly refinancing VA-backed mortgages to pocket hefty fees. I
successfully expanded financial protections for
Gold Star spouses, passing a bipartisan bill to allow a survivor to terminate a
residential lease within one year of a service member’s death. And I worked
with my Republican colleagues in Congress to pass my Veterans Care Financial
Protection Act to protect low-income and older veterans in assisted care from
scams targeting their pension benefits.
As President, I’ll work with Congress to give the CFPB new
tools and additional authority to enforce the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
And I’ll appoint individuals at the CFPB and DOJ who will use the full extent
of those authorities to aggressively go after scammers and protect our men and
women in uniform. Criminals and predators will keep coming up with new and
creative ways to target the military community. We must be vigilant — but
military families can feel confident that a Warren Administration will always
have their backs.
Prioritizing Family Readiness
Military families form the backbone of our armed forces.
Just like other middle-class families, they worry about making ends meet:
finding child care, giving their children a good education, retiring with
dignity. But military families — particularly dual military couples — also
face special challenges, like regular moves from assignment to assignment and
the anxiety of a loved one’s deployment. And too often, the unique needs of
military communities are overlooked by Washington.
A Warren Administration will continue and expand current policy of
weighing basing and force structure decisions to account for quality of life
factors in the surrounding communities, including safe living environments,
available child care, quality of public schools, and employment opportunities
and licensing reciprocity for military spouses. There’s also a lot more we can
do to support and uplift our military families.
Increasing Military Spouse Employment
A majority of
military families report two incomes as vital to their family’s well-being. But
employment opportunities for military spouses are hindered by a variety of
factors, including frequent moves and lack of available child care at some
posts. Last year 30% of military
spouses were unemployed, and 56% of working
spouses reported being underemployed. Spouses in fields that require professional
licenses face an additional challenge, as occupational licensing and
credentialing standards vary from state to state.
Reduced spousal employment isn’t just bad for military
families — it results in up to $1 billion annually
in lost income and associated costs. We need to make spousal employment a
The Obama Administration made real progress in encouraging
states to offer licensing and credentialing reciprocity for the military
community — now we need to finish those efforts to remove barriers to military
We can start by making permanent the program to reimburse military spouses for
professional relicensing. I’ll also work with states to provide military
families with a one-stop shop where they can review licensing requirements
before a move.
I’ll also work with Congress to expand and better
communicate about special hiring preferences for on-base jobs for military
spouses and at American Job Centers. These preferences not only benefit
spouses, they help build communities on military installations.
We’ll expand educational opportunities like MyCAA for
military spouses, and provide targeted training for high-demand, high-growth
sectors and to help military spouses find careers that can move with
Military spouses bring unique strengths to the workforce —
it’s time we leverage those strengths to benefit not only our military families
but our economy.
Ensuring High Quality Childcare and Education
As a young working mother, child care almost sank me —
until my Aunt Bee stepped in to help. But finding affordable and high-quality
child care has gotten even harder since my children were growing up, and not
everyone is lucky enough to have an Aunt Bee of their own.
That’s why I have a plan to provide universal child
care for every single one of our babies from birth to school
age. It will be free for millions of American families, and affordable for
everyone. The federal government will partner with local providers to create a
network of child care options that would be available to every family. These
options would be held to high federal standards, and we’ll pay child care and
preschool workers the wages they deserve. And rather than diverting funding from
military daycare programs for a needless wall, I’ll invest again in growing DOD
child care centers and modernizing schools on base.
We’ll move forward with efforts to
introduce more flexibility into the personnel system for families who want to
limit moves for assignments, while ensuring that option does not hamper the
service member’s ability to get promoted and advance their military career.
We’ll invest the resources necessary to ensure families (and their household
goods) are no longer subjected to chaos and mistakes that
can impact the experience of transitioning to a new assignment. And we’ll seek
to limit family moves during the academic year — when they must occur, we’ll
provide dedicated support to families as they navigate transferring educational
Every military family is unique, and some have unique needs.
I’ll work to improve oversight and standardize DOD’s
Exceptional Family Member Program to care for dependents with special needs. We
need to do more to empower military families to make informed decisions,
taking their individual circumstances into account during relocation and
providing dedicated case management to help military families identify
appropriate programs and interventions regardless of their location. Supporting
these families isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good for military
Wounded Warriors and their Families
About 30% of
veterans between the ages of 21 and 64 have a disability. As president, I will
keep fighting for the rights of people with disabilities and to ensure their
full inclusion through policy reforms and enforcement priorities. This includes
prioritizing the unique challenges that face veterans with disabilities.
As part of my plan to empower American workers,
I have committed to substantially increasing funding for the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission to uphold the rights
of veterans with disabilities at work. I will also ensure that the Department
of Labor is enforcing the law to protect disabled
veterans againist work discrimination. I support the Raise the Wage Act to
guarantee workers with disabilities a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and I will
push to pass the Transformation to Competitive
Employment Act, which would provide grants and assistance to support
a transition towards competitive, integrated employment for people with
It is often family members who care for injured service
members and veterans — in some cases, putting aside careers and other
opportunities to provide assistance to our wounded warriors. According to a
2014 report, there were approximately 5.5 million military
caregivers in the United States — but the physical and emotional strain on
this population is understudied and overlooked.
Medicare for All will expand access to long-term home and
community-based care, offering critical support and relieving the financial
burden on veterans and their families. A Warren Administration will also
empower our nation’s military caregivers by fully implementing the recommendations of
the federal advisory panel on caregiving. We’ll create an office within VA
focused on the needs of caregivers, ensuring that their voices are heard in the
policymaking process and that VA is fully communicating available resources.
We’ll ensure that caregivers are formally designated in a patient’s medical
record, so that they can be consistently included in medical planning about the
course of care. We’ll collect better data on the caregiver population and their
needs, including the impact on military children. And we’ll make sure we’re
also caring for the caregivers, themselves, including respite care.
To recognize caregiving for the valuable work it is, my plan to expand Social Security creates
a new credit for caregiving for people who qualify for Social Security
benefits. This credit raises Social Security benefits for people who take time
out of the workforce to care for a family member at least 80 hours a month,
including designated “primary family caregivers” of eligible veterans in the
Caregiver Support Program. For every month of caregiving that meets these
requirements, the caregiver will be credited for Social Security purposes with
a month of income equal to the monthly average of that year’s median annual
Lastly, I support eliminating the so-called “Widow’s Tax” and efforts
to ensure that all families of veterans who died or became totally disabled
from a service-connected condition receive the Dependency and Indemnity
Compensation (DIC) benefits that they are entitled to.
Providing Safe and Affordable Housing
In the mid-1990s, the Department of Defense agreed to
privatize the majority of the 300,000 houses it owned and operated on base,
many of which were in need of renovation after
decades of neglect. It was a good deal for the private developers, but this
system has turned out to be a lousy bargain for military families. With their
focus on short-term payoffs, private developers failed to
invest in and maintain the properties with which they were entrusted. That’s
why earlier this year, I released my plan to improve military housing by
ensuring that every base has a housing office staffed with advocates for the
service member and establishing a “bill of rights” that all military tenants
will receive when they move in.
And for those families who choose to live off base, and for
veterans, my plan to increase affordable housing makes
a historic federal investment to increase affordable housing supply, lowering
rents around the country by 10%. And while cost is a major challenge to finding
safe and affordable housing, too many service members and veterans face
additional obstacles, including landlords who don’t understand the
housing benefits they receive for their service and those who turn away service
members and veterans because of discriminatory stereotypes. My affordable
housing plan extends protection against discrimination under the Fair Housing
Act to include veteran status, which would include those using HUD-VASH
vouchers. I have also pushed hard for more resources for programs to end
veterans’ homelessness, including the successful Tribal HUD-VASH program to
assist Native American veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness
find homes in Indian country.
Putting Service Members and Veterans First
Nearly two decades of combat has put significant stress on
the force, and this will continue to manifest itself long after combat
operations are over. Our first priority must be the care and safety of those
who serve or have served in uniform.
Eliminating Military Sexual Assault
For decades, the military has affirmed a “zero tolerance
policy” — and yet reports of sexual assault in the military have spiked. In
2018 alone, the Department of Defense estimated that more than 20,000 service
members experienced assault or unwanted sexual contact. These statistics are a
shameful breach of trust with those who serve. Annual promises from senior
military leaders to address the issue increasingly ring hollow — we owe it to
our service members to make real change.
Currently, skilled military prosecutors make an
evidence-based recommendation on whether or not a case should proceed to trial,
but then military commanders get to decide whether or not they want to listen.
That’s why I supported Senator Gillibrand’s effort to
remove cases of sexual assault from the chain of command and place trained
prosecutors in charge instead. It’s simple – if evidence of a crime warrants a
trial, then the case should go to trial. We need to reform the military justice
system so that the lawyers and judges trying cases have the necessary
experience and expertise, and so that every victim of a sexually-based crime
benefits from a competent, empowered advocate from the very first day they
We need to change the culture. Sexual harassment and sexual
assault are correlated— and 24% of
military women and 6% of military men said they had been sexually harassed in
the past year. In the
Senate, I worked to make so-called “revenge pornography”
prosecutable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. We should also
prosecute sexual harassment as a stand-alone crime under military law. We
should push to expose and prevent sexual harassment in the civilian workforce as
well, recognizing that our entire culture has work to do.
And we need to invest in survivors, helping them to get the
care they need so that they can recover, and so they can continue to serve.
Often, survivors worry that reporting a sexual assault may also bring to light
other misconduct, such as underage drinking or fraternization. Sometimes,
military commanders will distribute punishment for these offenses by survivors
while the sexual assault itself goes unaddressed. Even worse, more than 20% of
those who reported an assault also reported experiencing retaliation. If we
want to increase reporting and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable,
we need to exercise much wider discretion in the way we approach collateral
misconduct as part of instances of sexual assault. Until reporting an assault
is not perceived as a possible end to someone’s career, we will never fully
address this scourge.
Ending Veteran and Military Suicide
Our service members are resilient, but even the strongest
warriors need care. In 2017, 6,139 U.S. veterans
died by suicide, an average of nearly 17 each day, and 1.5 times the rate for
non-veteran adults. But only half of veterans
of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who may need mental health services —
including many with diagnoses that increase the risk of suicide, like PTSD, traumatic brain injury, substance use disorders,
or depression —
actually access them.
Every single one of these deaths is a tragedy that could
have been prevented. As President, I will set a goal of cutting veteran
suicides in half within my first term — and pursue a suite of concrete
policies to make sure we get there.
To get there, we need to invest more in research into the
causes of suicide, with a specific focus on contributing factors that are
specific to the military experience and a concerted effort to collect the data
that will save lives. We should conduct research targeting subgroups of
veterans who may be at higher risk of suicide, and evaluate the efficacy of
suicide prevention pilot programs and invest in those that make a meaningful
Veterans account for one in five firearm
suicides. My plan to prevent gun violence includes
a waiting period before purchase and a federal extreme risk protection law,
both of which have been shown to reduce suicides by gun.
We also need to provide consistent, accessible, high-quality mental
health care for all of our service members and veterans. Under Medicare for All
every person will have this essential care covered. But we must also address
the shortfall of mental health providers at DOD and VA, and in the areas where
In the last Congress, I led the fight to prevent budget cuts
to the Mental Health Block Grant and secured an additional $160 million for the
program, and I urged appropriators to designate $1 billion to mental health
programs through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. I have
also proposed significant
expansions of Community Health Centers and the National Health Service Corps,
which would help increase the supply of primary care and mental health
providers in underserved areas. We need to make it easier for service members
and veterans to see a mental health professional, including by significantly increasing
the number of mental health specialists at DOD and VA, streamlining appointment
processes, and enhancing access to telehealth options for those who cannot come
to a VA facility.
We should also focus on preventive care — early and often
throughout a military career, including by incorporating annual mental health
exams for service members in the same way they receive annual physical exams.
We should clearly communicate benefits and eligibility, raising awareness about
available care. And we must continue to remove the stigma around warfighters
seeking help, and do more to support military families who lose someone to
Treating the Opioid and Addiction Crisis
In 2017, over 70,000 people died
from a drug overdose — the highest year on record, with the majority due to opioids.
And the opioid crisis that has devastated so many American families has not
spared our military community. Stressors including deployment, combat exposure,
injury, and post-deployment reintegration have been shown to increase the risk
of substance abuse. Our military population has a higher risk of
substance use disorders, with 11% of veterans
from Afghanistan and Iraq treated by the VA being diagnosed with a substance use
My CARE Act to end the
opioid crisis — introduced in partnership with my late friend Congressman
Elijah Cummings of Baltimore — is a comprehensive plan to provide the
resources needed to begin treating this epidemic like the public health crisis
that it is. It would provide $100 billion in federal funding to states and
communities over the next ten years, because that’s what’s needed to make sure
every single person gets the treatment they need.
Under my plan, VA facilities will be able to participate in
planning councils to address the opioid crisis in order to ensure that veterans
are prioritized in our response and organizations serving veterans have a voice
in how the funding is spent. We will expand the number of inpatient beds
available to veterans for treatment and recovery. We’ll fund community-based
organizations, including eligible veteran-serving nonprofits, working to help
prevent and treat addicted veterans. And we’ll provide vocational training for
people struggling with addiction, helping them to get back into the civilian
workforce after their military careers.
Addressing the “Invisible Wounds” of War
17% of post-9/11
military veterans experience some form of traumatic brain injury during their
military service. TBI is associated with higher rates of PTSD, depression, and
substance abuse. While our knowledge of these conditions has improved
dramatically, it is still incomplete. Moreover, too many veterans don’t receive
the treatment they so badly need. While TBI is often associated with blunt
physical injuries to the head, research has shown that the blast wave produced
by even minor explosions, such as firing heavy weapons,
can result in TBI — even if the individual does not exhibit outward physical
signs of head injury.
In the Senate, I worked with my Republican colleagues to
establish a longitudinal study at
DOD to track the impact of blast exposure and brain health over time, and to
push DOD to track service member blast exposure.
We’ll use this data to improve our understanding of blast exposure injuries,
improve protective equipment, and develop innovative new treatments. We’ll also
use it to inform the safety guidance provided to our troops, including by
limiting non-combat exposure during training exercises.
Many states have established veterans’ courts or other
diversion programs to provide treatment rather than incarceration for veterans
with behavioral issues as a result of trauma, and I support the expansion of
these programs. I also support legalizing marijuana. I’ve co-sponsored
legislation to study the use of medical cannabis to treat veterans as an
alternative to opioids, because we need to pursue all evidence-based
opportunities for treatment and response.
The prevalence of certain rare cancers has been increasing steadily among
military personnel and veterans who have served overseas. It took years for
Vietnam veterans to receive treatment for exposure to Agent Orange — and some,
including Blue Water Navy veterans,
are still fighting for healthcare and benefits. Some veterans of more recent
wars attribute their illness to exposure to toxic burn pits used
by the military to dispose of waste, and at least one veterans group has projected that
deaths from cancer and other illnesses could outpace suicide deaths in the
military population by 2020.
As President, I will ensure that DOD tracks and records
potential toxic exposure by integrating it into the post-deployment checklist.
We need to ensure that adequate funding is allocated to research diseases that
may be connected to certain kinds of exposure. And we must treat those affected
without delay — we cannot allow today’s veterans to wait for earned health
Equal Treatment For All Who Serve
The diversity of our force is one of its unique strengths —
it allows us to incorporate different perspectives and experiences and to look
at problems in new ways. The data are clear: inclusive, diverse militaries
simply perform better. When we
discriminate or treat classes of service members as less worthy than their
peers, we fail to honor that diversity and we do enormous harm to our ability
to recruit a strong future force. Minority communities in the military —
particularly LGBTQ+, women, Black and Latinx service
members — are significantly under-represented in the leadership ranks. Here’s
what I’ll do to protect and honor everyone who volunteers to serve.
LGBTQ+ Service Members
The only thing that should matter when it comes to allowing
military personnel to serve is whether or not they can handle the job. Our
national security community is weaker when LGBTQ+ Americans are excluded. I
have opposed the Trump Administration’s shameful ban on transgender service
members from the start —
and I’ll reverse it on the first day of my presidency. In addition, advances
in care and treatment have
made it possible for individuals living with HIV to serve and deploy, and the
Pentagon’s policies should be updated to reflect these advances in medical
I’ve also supported efforts to review and correct the
military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual
orientation, both before and during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell era. As
Commander-in-Chief, I’ll prioritize this effort, ensuring that we reflect their
honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned.
I’ll include the LGBTQ+ population in the VA’s Center for
Minority Veterans, ensuring that they receive targeted outreach and equal care
and are treated with dignity and respect. A Warren VA will ensure that every
LGBTQ+ person can get the equitable, gender-affirming, and culturally-competent
health care they need. That means providing all medically necessary care related
to the health of transgender people, including transition-related surgery,
and allowing providers discretion to deem gender-affirming procedures as
medically necessary based on an individualized assessment. This care will also
be available under Medicare for All.
Professional medical associations recognize the need for transition-related
surgery. VA’s blanket exclusion policy of medically necessary treatment is not
grounded in medicine; it should be repealed.
Empowering Women Service Members
Women make up 17.5% of the total
force. But they can face unique professional and personal challenges over the
course of a military career, including higher rates of sexual harassment and assault, higher rates
of divorce, challenges
starting a family, and fewer opportunities for career advancement.
I supported then-Defense Secretary Carter’s decision
to open combat positions to women across
the services, because the only thing that should matter is an individual’s
ability to meet the standards. I’m proud of the women who have risen to that challenge.
Now we must do more to recruit women into service, and then ensure that they
are given equal opportunities to compete for command and promotions. We’ll
invest in research on appropriate gear and injury prevention for women — over one
hundred years after being allowed to enlist, women still perform their duties
wearing equipment that doesn’t fit them, and therefore doesn’t adequately
protect them. And both DOD and VA should enhance the quality of and access to
care for women service members, including for preventive and reproductive care
and mental health.
A 21st century VA must also adapt to the modern fabric of
our veteran population, ensuring that gender-specific care is the norm. There
are about 2 million women veterans today,
and women represent the fastest growing veteran subgroup — that’s why I
successfully fought to ensure VA
has sufficient resources and expertise in its peer counseling program for women
veterans. I’ll also ensure that VA provides full reproductive health care for
all veterans, in addition to the full reproductive health coverage they will
have under Medicare for All. This includes IVF, which is currently only available to
married veterans with service-connected infertility who don’t need donor sperm
or eggs — discriminating against
unmarried veterans, those who delayed pregnancy during their service, and
same-sex couples. It also includes contraception, for which VA continues to charge veterans
despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act made it available without cost to
their civilian counterparts. This also includes abortions. I’ve called to
repeal the Hyde Amendment, which
blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of
rape, incest, or the life of the woman. VA’s restrictions go even further,
prohibiting coverage for all abortions and all abortion counseling with no
exemptions, an extreme policy I will eliminate.
Too often, women veterans experience sexually explicit
comments and other forms of harassment that
make them feel unsafe and unwelcome and cause them to delay seeking care at
their local VA or miss appointments altogether. This is shameful and it has to
stop. I’ll ensure that a Warren VA has a comprehensive policy to eliminate
sexual harassment and assault and hold perpetrators — VA personnel or anyone
else — accountable, so that women veterans do not have to feel unsafe at their
VA medical center when they seek the care they’ve earned.
Immigrant Service Members
Immigrants to our country have a proud history of honorable
military service and often become citizens. But the Trump Administration has
done everything it can to make these patriotic individuals who volunteer to
serve and defend the United States of America feel unwelcome in our ranks.
In recent years, ICE has deported noncitizen veterans in
violation of its own policies, which require additional review before
proceeding with a removal case against a veteran. The Trump Administration has
taken steps to withdraw deportation protections from military family members,
including family of service members deployed in combat overseas. And under
DOD’s current policies, immigrant troops are being denied citizenship at
a rate higher than their civilian counterparts, and applications for
naturalization as a result of military service dropped 72% between 2017
This is a disgrace. It also undermines military readiness.
It’s not reasonable to expect service members to be able to concentrate on
their jobs when their families are being deported, which is why I’ve used my
position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to urge the Trump
Administration to maintain critical programs like Parole in Place and Deferred
Action for undocumented family members of service members. Further, many
noncitizen veterans come to the attention of immigration enforcement as a
result of PTSD or other trauma associated with their military service; others
fear seeking treatment for that reason. Everyone who serves our country
deserves equal treatment and benefits, regardless of their citizenship status.
A Warren Administration will make it clear that we will
protect veterans and family members of serving military personnel from
deportation, and we will review the cases of those who have been deported for
possible return to the United States. Consistent with our national security
interests, I’ll restart the
Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which
recruits non-citizens with specialized skills or language abilities, paired
with appropriate security and counterintelligence protections. I’ll also make
it easier for noncitizens who serve honorably in our military to naturalize and
become citizens. And we will heed the call of veterans to honor our commitment
to translators and
others who supported them in combat by re-launching the Direct Access Program
for these vulnerable refugees.
Easing the Transition for Veterans
Nearly 200,000 personnel
separate from military service every year. The initial transition away from
military service can be a challenging period, as veterans work to start school
or find a job, and readjust to family after time overseas. Many new veterans
struggle to find a sense of purpose or connection in new civilian careers and
communities. While DOD has improved its transition counseling in recent years,
we can do more to prepare service members to return to civilian life.
Ensuring a “Warm Hand-Off”
The key to an effective transition is a seamless connection
between DOD and the VA — but too often, veterans fall through the cracks. I’ll
direct DOD to require that service members pre-enroll and complete processing
at the VA before they leave active service. I’ll set a goal of completing
interoperable electronic records between DOD and VA by the end of my first
term. And I’ll direct VA to expand the vets.gov online
portal for veterans and provide veterans access to a VA-provided email, so that
the government can continue to communicate with them about their eligibility
even if they move physical addresses over time.
Eliminating the Benefits Backlog
While the VA has made progress in addressing its backlog of
benefits cases waiting for adjudication, today there are over 70,000 veterans
who have been waiting more than 125 days for a status determination. Moreover,
VA itself acknowledges it takes between 12-18 months to
review a new appeal, and 5-7 years to get a decision from a Veterans Law Judge.
As President, I’ll fully eliminate the initial claims and appeals backlog. And
in the interim, we’ll provide a presumption of eligibility for certain interim
benefits to all those waiting for a final status determination.
Our understanding of traumatic brain injury and other
complex injuries has improved dramatically in recent years, but VA’s disability
compensation process has not kept pace with those developments. I’ll task the
National Academy of Public Administration to review and overhaul the disability
ratings system to better accommodate “invisible” wounds like TBI. I’ll direct
them to take into account recommendations for best practices,
including training additional staff to evaluate cases and taking into account
symptoms that are closely-associated with undiagnosed TBI.
A key concern among veterans is that the benefits
adjudication process is byzantine and lacks transparency. I’ll make sure that
veterans automatically get full access to the results of their examinations and
put in place rigorous processes to ensure claims are granted consistently
nationwide. And to help veterans navigate the system and obtain the benefits
they deserve, I’ll also establish a grant program to fund additional
caseworkers at Veterans Service Organizations and other community-based
Clearing “Bad Paper” Discharges
As the research into PTSD and traumatic brain injuries has
improved, we’ve come to learn that these often invisible injuries lie behind
many less-than-honorable discharges. Nearly 6% of post-9/11
discharges have been other-than-honorable — and one study estimated that 62% of service
members separated for misconduct had been diagnosed within the 2 years prior to
separation with PTSD, TBI, or related conditions. These so-called “bad paper”
discharges can have a lasting negative impact, preventing the most vulnerable
veterans from accessing benefits, obtaining employment, and other earned and
I’ll create a DOD appeals board for veterans seeking to upgrade
their discharges to give those denied by the services another opportunity for
review and to ensure consistency across the services. I’ll direct that board to
expand “liberal consideration”
and consider a broader array of potentially mitigating evidence. I’ll direct
the VA to provide certain interim benefits to individuals with
other-than-honorable discharges until their appeals are adjudicated. And I’ll
direct DOD to establish guidance for commanders to ensure that individuals
first receive care for underlying conditions that may be contributing to
behavioral problems, rather than merely processed for administrative discharge.
Providing Good Jobs
Service members gain valuable skills in the military, but
often don’t know how to translate their skills into civilian life or receive
appropriate “credit” for military service in a civilian context. And while
public-private partnerships and other efforts have broken down the stigma
around hiring veterans, we can do more to set veterans up for long-term
It starts by making it easier for civilian employers to
identify military skill sets that most closely match their needs, and helping
veterans to describe their military experiences in language that resonates with
civilian employers. In the Senate, I’ve prioritized improving the employment
transition for retiring service members, for example by passing a bipartisan bill
that made it easier for service members to use their experience operating large
military vehicles to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
As President, I’ll direct DOD to expand resume and career
coaching opportunities for military personnel considering transition. To
encourage veteran entrepreneurship, I’m proposing a new program to allow
veterans to cash out their GI education benefits for a small business loan. And
we’ll invest in collaborative programs — like labor’s Helmets to Hardhats program
— to connect transitioning service members with federally-recognized
apprenticeship opportunities and good, union jobs.
Ending Veterans’ Homelessness
While the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has
dropped over the last decade, nearly 38,000 were still
homeless in January 2018. Veterans constituted nearly 9% of the total
adult homeless population. Even one homeless veteran is one too many. I’ll
restore SNAP benefits that the Trump administration seeks to cut that
support 1.4 million low-income
veterans, including those who are unemployed or with disabilities. SNAP is a
particularly critical support for young veterans and those recently who have
recently transitioned from active service. We’ll fully fund rapid re-housing
and permanent supportive housing through Supportive Services for Veteran
Families (SSVF) and HUD-VASH. And we’ll create a new competitive grant program
for communities to provide wrap-around services for veterans and their
families. We know that access to housing can be a barrier to many veterans –
and can enhance the scale of other challenges they face. By strengthening
and expanding programs like HUD-VASH, we can end veteran homelessness and allow
our veterans to focus on finding meaningful employment, receiving healthcare
for service-connected conditions, and building resilient lives.
Creating a 21st Century VA Health Care System
The Veterans Health Administration is America’s largest health care
system, providing care at over 1,200 health care facilities nationwide and
serving 9 million enrolled veterans each year.
In recent years, attacks on VA have intensified as
Republicans have pressed to privatize large chunks of VA service. My
Administration will be clear-eyed about leadership challenges at VA. We will
hold accountable leaders who fail to put veterans first or misuse resources,
and we will empower whistleblowers who report wrongdoing to address their
concerns and protect them from retaliation. But the truth is that care provided
by VA outperforms care at non-VA hospitals, as multiplestudies have shown.
And in a recent survey, 91% of veterans who
use VA care said they would recommend it to their fellow veterans. VA has
pioneered innovations in medical care and service delivery. It provides
world-class care for uniquely service-connected injuries, including treatment
for polytrauma, amputations, and spinal cord injuries.
While community care is appropriate where specialists are
unavailable or geographically inaccessible, let me be clear: a Warren
Administration will invest in the VA, not further dismantle it. We will not cut
the high-quality, evidence-based, culturally competent programs that our
veterans rely on. And under Medicare for All, veterans will all have
high-quality health coverage that gives them the option to seek care from
non-VA doctors and hospitals for no additional cost. If there isn’t a VA close
to where they live, Medicare for All will ensure that veterans still get the
care they need when they need it.
In the immediate-term, here’s what we can do to revitalize
our VA for the 21st century–
Work with Congress to implement more flexible hiring
authorities, with a goal of filling the nearly 49,000 staffing
vacancies, the vast majority of which are in the health administration.
Expand the number of physician recruiters and provide
additional financial incentives for physicians in hard-to-recruit specialties
and rural VA centers or those near tribal lands.
Reinvigorate VA’s training partnership program — nearly 70%
of U.S. doctors receive some training at a VA facility, but VA is hindered from
converting those into full-time positions because of the cumbersome hiring
Fully implement the VA MISSION Act — on-time, and in collaboration
with veteran’s groups, ensuring community providers are held to the same high
standards of care as VA providers and that the direct care system is not
weakened by siphoning away money into the private sector.
We’ll invest in modernizing aging infrastructure and
state-of-the-art medical equipment.
We’ll work to fill gaps in care, benefits, or other services
in underserved regions, including on tribal lands; and further integrating
federally-qualified health centers, DOD facilities, and the Indian Health
System as appropriate.
Read more about Warren’s plan for service members, veterans and military families here: